For what is a comparatively small capital city, Dublin has a great deal to see, do and experience. It won't be possible to squeeze everything into 72 hours, but here's a starting guide on when to go, what to expect and the experiences you absolutely must not miss.
When to visit
Ireland warms up between March and April and stays warm enough to visit until late October. The best weather is typically from May through September, but the best time to visit is March, to coincide with St Patrick's Day. The three-day festival, including the colorful parade on March 17, brings vast numbers to the city center.
Where to stay
At the top end, the Intercontinental Dublin is the capital's most luxurious five-star hotel. It's located in the heart of Georgian Dublin and offers an escape from the city's hubbub. The family-run Brooks Hotel lies in the heart of Dublin's “Creative Quarter," where shopping and entertainment are literally outside your door. And on a budget, Ariel House is hard to beat, offering Victorian townhouses just a stone's throw from the city's heart.
Get your bearings
Dublin's compact city center is entirely walkable and houses more than enough sights, sounds, and experiences to fill 72 hours and more. Near the River Liffey, Temple Bar is home to galleries and chic shops by day and the city's best nightlife by night. In the Old City, which holds much of Dublin's history, you can shop 'til you drop on Grafton Street and St. Stephen's Green, where you can experience an oasis of calm in the heart of the city at one of the city's finest parks.
Dublin by day
Three days in Dublin will pass quickly, so make sure to prioritize some of these recommendations. Seek out the Talking Statues dotted around the city center with 10 familiar icons, including Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw and James Joyce. They tell the story of the city using location technology and different voices, such as that of Irish-born actor Gabriel Byrne for the James Joyce statue.
A stroll through Georgian Dublin is essential. You'll pass the Merrion Square, the Natural History Museum, and the National Gallery of Ireland while en route to Trinity College Dublin's elegant campus, home to one of Dublin's most popular tourist attractions: the ancient, ornate Book of Kells manuscript.
Don't miss Saint Patrick's Cathedral — although missing it is almost impossible — and Dublin Castle, which contains the magnificent Chester Beatty Library. The Little Museum of Dublin will tell you more about the city's history, but it's best to book your visit in advance.
Changing gears, no visit to Dublin is complete without a stop at The Guinness Storehouse in historic Liberties neighborhood, where you'll learn the history of — and get a chance to sample — Ireland's most famous brew. If whiskey is more to your taste, Teeling Distillery, Old Jameson Distillery and Pearse Lyons Distillery all offer tours and are within walking distance of the center, as is the journey-back-through-time Irish Whiskey Museum.
And if exploring the more macabre side of the city appeals to you, climb aboard the Gravedigger Tour bus at Trinity College to hear ghoulish tales, and finish up with a drink at the Gravediggers Pub.
Finding a place to revive between sightseeing is easy with Dublin's fully-embraced coffee and café culture. Though by no means an exhaustive list, several of the best options include The Pepper Pot Cafe, The Fumbally, Oxmantown and Hatch & Sons, which is located in the basement of the Little Museum of Dublin. To tick a tourist box, head for the iconic Bewley's on Grafton Street.
Dublin by night
In a vibrant and ever growing food city, exceptional restaurants can be found in every neighborhood. Most roads lead to Temple Bar, home to the excellent Cleaver East and the traditional Gallagher's Boxty House. Wander a little further afield and you'll find other excellent options, including Delahunt (mentioned in James Joyce's Ulysses), The East Side Tavern, and Chapter One, to name just three.
To sample the best pubs the city is famous for, seek out The Brazen Head (dating back to 1198 and also referenced in Ulysses), The Norseman, Grogan's and O'Donoghue's. If you want to boast about drinking in a bar owned by rock royalty, head to the Clarence Hotel's Octagon Bar for cocktails, owned by U2's Bono and The Edge.
Make sure to purchase a Dublin Freedom Pass at the airport. Priced around $40 ($20 for a child) and valid for 72 hours, the pass includes unlimited airport shuttles and central Dublin bus travel, plus a city hop-on hop-off tour with a choice of two routes. It also includes savings on entrance fees to many of the attractions mentioned above.
If you go
United offers service to Dublin from many U.S. cities through its nonstop flights from Chicago, Newark and Washington D.C. Visit united.com or use the United app to plan your next vacation to Ireland.